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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Economic Effects of Exclusionary Discipline on Grade Retention and High School Dropout

  • Author(s): Marchbanks, Miner P, III
  • Blake, Jamilia J
  • Booth, Eric A
  • Carmichael, Dottie
  • Seibert, Allison L
  • Fabelo, Tony
  • et al.

Nearly 15% of students are disciplined in a given year, with 60% of students being disciplined at-least once between grades 7 through 12. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of school discipline contact on students’ risk for grade retention and school dropout using a statewide sample of 7th grade students tracked through their 12th grade year. Results indicate that school discipline is associated with approximately 4,700 grade retentions per year in the state of Texas. The delayed workforce entry related to grade retention has an effect of over $68 million for the state, including $5.6 million in lost tax revenue. Given the higher discipline rate for minorities, these costs disproportionately affect them. Further, the additional year of instruction costs the state nearly $41 million dollars. For each year an individual student is retained the effect on the net social surplus exceeds $23,000. Results also indicate that school discipline relates to a 29% increase in high school dropout. These additional dropouts account for an economic effect of $711 million per year. It is recommended that educational agencies adopt evidenced-based programs that reduce school officials’ use of punitive and exclusionary measures to manage student behavior such as Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports. Further, these results underscore the need for school officials to employ secondary and tertiary dropout prevention programs that are targeted at the most academically and behaviorally at-risk students in schools in addition to primary prevention programs.

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